In 1943, the Montgomery Ward-Co. union struck after management refused to comply with an order from the War Labor Board to recognize the union and introduce the terms of a collective agreement drawn up by the board of directors. The strike involved nearly 12,000 workers in Jamaica, New York. Detroit, Michigan Chicago, Illinois, St. Paul Denver, Colorado; San Rafael, California; portland,15. Ward then cut wages and fired many union activists. In 1958, the RWDSU organized its first hospital staff at Montefiore Hospital. Local 1199 embarked on a radical program of race relations, assistance to the poor and organization, and quickly expanded its organizational efforts to other non-profit hospitals in the city. Under the leadership of Leon Davis, the union led a reconnaissance strike in 1959 with 3,500 hospital employees in seven hospitals. A 1962 strike at Beth El Hospital, during which Davis spent 30 days in prison, helped pass government laws later this year that extended tariff fees to New York`s nonprofit hospitals.
The workers again opted (through an election of the National Labor Relations Board) for the creation of a collective organization in the summer of 1944, but Montgomery Ward continued to refuse to recognize the union. On December 27, 1944, Roosevelt passed an executive order authorizing the Minister of War to confiscate all of the company`s real estate across the country in order to enforce the War Labor Board`s orders. The seizure was upheld by a U.S. Court of Appeals (United States v. Montgomery Ward – Co., 150 C. 2d 369), but the seizure ended in 1945 by President Harry S. Truman. The passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 triggered a crisis within the union.
Many local union leaders in the New York area have refused to sign the sworn anti-communist assurances required by law. This prevented their local unions from participating in elections sponsored by the National Labor Relations Board. To resolve the obstacle to the organization, the national directorate of the RWDSU suspended the local officers. Eight of New York`s largest, representing 30,000 to 40,000 workers, distanced themselves from the union and created the Distribution Workers Union. In a compromise, Turner agreed to support Henry Nicholas, an experienced organizer and vice president of the New York union, as president of the National Health Union, as she ran for president of the New York member organization. Both were elected to their respective positions in 1981. RWDSU languishing in the late 1940s. Other unions had begun to organize retail workers and many RWDSU residents were satisfied only to serve existing workers.
The DWU took over the remains of two other unions that were excluded from the IOC for communist supremacy – the United Office and Professional Workers of America (UOPWA) and the Food, Tobacco and Agricultural Workers Union – to form distributors, Processing and Office Workers of America (DPOWA). In 1969, disagreements over support for the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement, as well as differences in organizing procedures, again led to the dissolution of District 65. Along with ten other secessionist unions from the RWDSU, a new national organization, the National Council of Distributor Workers of America (NAWCDA), was created. In 1969, NAWDCA joined the short-lived American Labor Alliance, founded by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the United Auto Workers.